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Phonominal October.

To my dear Vietnamese trekking guide,

Dear Sue,

It’s been 3 weeks now since I got home from your beautiful home country Vietnam. Your country is incredible. It has been a blessing coming home with a new Vietnamese sister in my life, and to now call you another woman from around the world to connect to my tribe of amazing women around the world.

I’ll have to post this letter as I know you don’t have social media or a phone that can support email communication. Thank you for showing me your culture up in Sapa, and introducing me into your village (Ta Van). For encouraging me to eat local delicacies like grubs, teaching me words in Vietnamese and in your local language. Even though I don’t remember much of it right now, I’m excited to refresh with you when I’m back to work in Vietnam, and lead an adventure/community service trip for another school from Australia, later in November.

Thank you for being a great trek guide and being so supportive to me as the leader. It was nice to have someone looking over me and asking me how I am, when I was looking over and after everyone else in the team. The team was from Australia. I was leading 9 students and two teachers on a 3 week expedition through the north of Vietnam. You made me feel supported and cared for when times were tough, when I had tricky personalities to work with and when I just needed some love myself. After 2 weeks into looking after a group 24/7 and having you hug me and ask me how I was, made my heart so happy. This was my first expedition I lead on my own and it was a very interesting experience. I learnt so much. In terms of my role, I felt so ready and confident in my leadership skills, although I think one thing that was apparent to me is that every group is so different and peoples mindsets really affect the way the expedition runs. At the end of the day as amazing as my work is, it still is a job that has some serious responsibility where peoples lives are in your hands in developing countries. Safety and risk management is crucial. You can refer to my blog post on “Working as a female in Outdoor Education” to read about how I am finding balance between my head and my heart on trips, my masculine and feminine energy, and being at peace in stressful situations. Our trip started in Hoi An, which was my favourite city we visited in Vietnam. Filled with streets of beautiful hanging lanterns, beautiful restaurants every where, a gorgeous river running through the middle with gondola rides and interactive, helpful locals. If you get there, try out one of the cooking classes and visit the Old Ancient City. The local market in the middle of the Old Ancient City also has rice paper rolls to die for.

From Hoi An, we went to Hue and worked at a local, over populated, low income kindergarten for a week. We started a project that would be to expand the play area for the kindergarten and create a carpark for somewhere for the parents to drop off their little ones. Currently there are around 220 little tackers that are confined in a very small space - it is hectic. Tiny little Vietnamese children running around everywhere, screaming, playing, laughing, biting, hiting! It was madness. So having more space will be great for them, and it the drop off area will stop the parents from just dropping off their little kids on the busy road. We hired local tradesmen to run this project for us, we helped buy the tools and they told us where to start digging. While we were there, we worked on moving rocks out of the area, preparing the area to be concreted, pulling out dead trees and planting new ones and painting. We don’t ever do things we aren’t qualified in or require skill that we have no idea about. I’m looking forward to seeing this project progress in December with my next school group! It was great to give the Australian students perspective over how hard people work in developing countries in heat every day that is over 35 degrees celsius and very high humidity. From there we came up to Sapa where we met YOU and Pete, who assisted us with our 5 day trek through Sapa. Sapa was incredibly beautiful. Lovely rolling green rice fields, local villages wearing traditional clothing and Pho every day for lunch. The first day was challenging for the group. It had me slightly concerned how the next 80km were going to go over the next 4 days. Plus it had been very rainy just before our trek so it was quite muddy. We tried to discuss alternative routes for the group, but our language barrier made it slightly tricky to make things clear haha. Don’t worry we will get there! You can keep helping me with my Vietnamese and I can help you with your English when I’m back. The team required a fair bit of encouragement from my side to push through, but they were persistent and positive and we got their each day. I’ve had groups that have liked hiking a lot more than this one, but none the less, I loved it. Each night that we stayed in homestay’s was amazing (except for when I got mauled by bed bugs and electrocuted badly from a dodgy power socket). I loved going into the kitchen every night and sitting with the local family and eating with them and just listening to you all converse in Vietnamese. I loved that my students got out their guitar and ukuleles every night and just jammed until bed time. Ive really needed some mountain time after being in the cities! Theres nothing better than walking in fresh air with many shades of green surrounding you.

After a week in Sapa, we rewarded ourselves to a incredibly beautiful day in Halong Bay. Which we were very fortunate for - with nothing but blue skies, no wind and everyone was feeling great and healthy. Halong Bay was much more beautiful than what I expected. I guess with many natural wonders and UNESO sites being touristy areas these days, you enter with a slight doubt that maybe it would be over touristy and the natural beauty wouldn’t be the same anymore, but Halong Bay was incredible! It looked just like the postcards.

After Halong bay, we spent a long 10 or so hours on a bus to get back to the hustle and bustle in Hanoi! Hanoi is really funky! Amazing shops, great food, really cool night scene. I’d definitely be keen to go back without a group of students! I’m really looking forward to seeing you again when I return to Vietnam in a couple of weeks time. I hope you, your two brothers and your parents are well. Looking forward to giving you a big hug when I see you again sister!


Love from Lauren.

Love from Lauren

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